Federal authorities are now investigating possible terrorism charges against the New Mexico jihadi cultists, reported the Albuquerque Journal. The cult members are currently being held on firearms and conspiracy charges.
Based on evidence found at their compound in New Mexico (on land which they illegally occupied between December 2017 and August 2018) as well as testimony by some of the older of the 11 starving children whom local police rescued from the compound, federal prosecutors say the group had “a common plan to prepare for violent attacks on government, military, educational and financial institutions.”
The teenage children said they were being given military training to carry out jihadi school shootings, among other attacks.
Defense attorneys are petitioning the court to remove any language in the indictment that speaks of jihad and martyrdom, saying it could encourage prejudice in the jury during a possible trial.
Clarion Project’s National Security Analyst and director of the Clarion Intelligence Network, Ryan Mauro, said this is a common tactic used by defense lawyers in cases involving Islamist motives.
“This is why sometimes crimes are committed by Islamists, but we often don’t know it has anything to do with Islamism,” Mauro said. “The defense team will object to any insertion of information about an Islamist motive, arguing that it’s irrelevant to the crime.”
Mauro said that it often happens that a jihadist is arrested for a jihad-motivated crime, yet all mention of his ideology is left out of the court case, leaving the public to think that what happened was a simple criminal act.
The five defendants were arrested last August after police raided their compound. Although federal authorities were watching the compound, they held off raiding the property. Local police moved in after hearing reports of starving and abused children at the compound.
Court testimony cited evidence of terrorism surrounding one of the defendants, Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, son of well-known radical preacher Siraj Wahhaj, Sr., including:
- international travel to countries of interest, including Saudi Arabia and Morocco
- a manual describing the “stages of a terrorist attack” found at the compound
- FBI reports regarding Wahhaj’s other political activity
- Training of children on the compound to carry out armed jihadi attacks and die as martyrs for Islam. Possible targets discussed were government, military, educational and financial institutions
Authorities also found the body of three-year-old Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj at the compound. Abdul-Ghani was Wahhaj’s son who suffered from epilepsy. Wahhaj is accused of kidnapping his son and bringing him to the New Mexico compound where he denied him his medication and subjected him to Islamic exorcism rituals. During these rituals (known as ruqyah), the boy would cry, scream and foam at the mouth, and his eyes would roll back in his head. Authorities say the rituals were performed for hours a day until Abdul-Ghani died.
At present, none of the defendants have been charged in the boy’s death. In addtion to Wahhaj, the defendants include — Wahhaj’s wife Jany Leveille, two of his sisters — Hujrah Wahhaj and Subhannah Wahhaj — and Lucas Morton.
All are currently being held without bail.